- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

PIEDMONT, Ohio (AP) - An 18,000-acre wildlife area in eastern Ohio could be the first state-owned property that’s strip mined.

Oxford Mining Co. has received a five-year permit to mine coal in the Egypt Valley Wildlife Area in Belmont County near the West Virginia state line, The Columbus Dispatch reported (https://bit.ly/1MfWJFl ).

Matt Eiselstein, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said Oxford is in talks with the state about leasing 1,400 acres to strip mine part of Perry State Forest for coal. A deal has not been made yet and no mining permit has been sought, he said. Brush Creek Wildlife Area also appears to be a target for strip mining.

An Oxford Mining official declined to discuss the mining. Calls seeking comment from Oxford’s parent company, Westmoreland Coal Co., of Englewood, Colo., were not returned.

Nathan Johnson, a lawyer for the Ohio Environmental Council, an advocacy group, criticized the plan.



“Strip mining means the total destruction of the land,” he said. “In this case, it means the destruction of a natural area owned by the people of Ohio.”

Last year a state Supreme Court ruling found that those who owned the mineral rights underneath parklands could choose to have the area mined. The state unsuccessfully argued unsuccessfully that only underground coal mining was permitted beneath state lands unless mineral-rights deeds clearly authorized surface mining.

Marietta Coal Co. owns the mineral rights beneath a section of the park and is leasing the land to Oxford.

The Columbus Dispatch reported last year that about 40 percent of Ohio parks, forests and wildlife and nature preserves are subject to mining or drilling. About 80 percent of Egypt Valley Wildlife Area consists of reclaimed strip-mine lands.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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